One of the main talking points when it comes to the Vikings' season-opening loss at New Orleans on Thursday has been the fact they went away from the running game in the second half.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries in the first 30 minutes as the Vikings had 17 rushing attempts for 61 yards and Brett Favre threw 11 passes. Minnesota led 9-7 at the half. But in the final two quarters, the Vikings had only six rushing attempts and Favre threw 12 passes. The Saints outscored the Vikings 7-0 in the half en route to the 14-9 victory.
So what happened?
“I can’t tell you exactly how many plays there were in the second half," coach Brad Childress said Friday at his day-after-game news conference. "We had a couple of gainers in the very first series of the second half if I’m not mistaken. Adrian had a plus-12 but that was only a four-play drive. That was like on first down. We go 12 and then essentially go three-and-out from that point on.
"Just kind of got behind the 8-ball a little bit in terms of the down and distance when you’re looking at normal down and distance. I know once we ran it for 6 yards and weren’t able to get a first down on the next two downs. It’s just that we weren’t able to go back and continue to lean on the run and be patient enough with the run because when you’re three-and-out you’re typically behind on down and distance.”
The Vikings had five series on offense in the second half and went three-and-out on three of them. That speaks to where this offense is at or isn't at one game into the regular season. The late arrival of Brett Favre, the injury to center John Sullivan, the missed time for Percy Harvin in training camp, the injury to Sidney Rice. It all adds up.
“I think I’ve said this [before]," Childress said. "There is no way we are up to the warp speed of an 18th game of the season with all those reps involving all those guys. You guys have kind of laughed about the work in progress or in flux [explanations given by Childress]. It’s a work in progress on offense and it’s from a number of different spots. Whether it’s just getting your center back or your wide outs or your quarterback. We need to get up to speed in a heck of a hurry and I believe we will but that didn’t approximate where we were at the end of last year.”
The Vikings wide receivers had little impact on Thursday. Favre threw 12 passes in their direction but had only four completions and no wide receiver caught more than one pass. There has been speculation the Vikings might bring back Javon Walker or even make an attempt to acquire Vincent Jackson from San Diego if his suspension to start the season is only three games and not six. But Childress said he isn't looking at adding a wide receiver.
“I’m not thinking that way right now," he said. "I’m not thinking about adding another body. I know those guys weren’t as involved as we would have liked them involved. But I think it had something to do with how they were kind of playing their coverage.”
- Childress said running back Toby Gerhart (knee) is close to returning but he still isn't sure when cornerback Chris Cook (knee) will be able to play. "Until he gets out here on Monday and moves around I wouldn’t know that," Childress said of Cook. "I know how he’s progressing in the training room and on land. But to play the game is a whole different thing.”
- Favre returned home to the Hattiesburg area after Thursday night's game so he could be at the baptism of his grandson.
- The NFL fined Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson $5,000 for throwing the ball into the stands after he scored a touchdown in the third preseason game against Seattle. The fine is standard because the league feels that players throwing footballs into the stands is a crowd safety issue. (Correction: Henderson's touchdown came in the fourth preseason game against Denver.)
- Vikings players will be off Saturday and Sunday before returning to practice Monday. That will get them on their normal game-week schedule. Players will be off Tuesday, as is usually the case, and then begin preparations for the Sept. 19 game against Miami.